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having a multiple partners

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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coffee
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having a multiple partners

#1 Postby coffee » September 29th, 2010, 10:17 am

Hi all,

Some of the recent contributors on 4thoght.tv believe in having a multiple partners, I just wonder what humanists think of it. As for me, I don't haven't a view on this if everybody involved is happy about it. I not sure what are the pros and cons about having a multiple partners.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/4thoughttv/4od

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Gottard
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Re: having a multiple partners

#2 Postby Gottard » September 29th, 2010, 11:56 am

If all parties are consenting then nothing wrong under the sun.
p.s.: you don't specify the composition of sexes, however.
The only thing I fear of death is regret if I couldn’t complete my learning experience

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jaywhat
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Re: having a multiple partners

#3 Postby jaywhat » September 29th, 2010, 1:39 pm

Surely depends on what you mean by 'partners'.
For example, in a marriage where there several wives (say in a Muslim family) there is the queston of hierarchy and equality of treatment to consider.
Then there is the question of co-habitation or menage a trois or a bit on the side and so on.

Caterpillar
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Re: having a multiple partners

#4 Postby Caterpillar » September 29th, 2010, 10:36 pm

I have a friend who is "poly" and has multiple partners. He seems to have one main girlfriend, and then others, who may all have other partners as well. They are completely open and honest about other partners and it seems to work for them. They have very strict rules about safe sex. My friend is heterosexual, but many seem to be bisexual and say they need one partner of each sex to feel "complete."

Another friend said the idea appealed to him. He did not want other partners himself, but felt he did not have enough to offer one person, so felt his partner could be more fulfilled if she were allowed other partners as well as him. I personally thought it was very sad that he felt this way and felt it was more a reflection on his self-esteem than a genuine lifestyle choice, though I cannot be sure.

I would think it could get very confusing if you had a favourite partner, wanted to live together or marry, or have children.

It's definitely not for me, but if everyone knows where they stand and is happy with the situation, then I suppose you have to let people get on with it.

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Alan C.
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Re: having a multiple partners

#5 Postby Alan C. » September 29th, 2010, 10:44 pm

I couldn't cope with more than one woman at a time :) Gotta admire the Muslims and the Mormons though, (Not)
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Re: having a multiple partners

#6 Postby Marian » September 29th, 2010, 10:47 pm

I had trouble finding the correct episode to watch so I can't comment on the video itself but I'd have to have some clarification on what multiple partners consisted of. Does this mean they are bigamists? Are they swingers? Or just loose or what?
I know a couple who are considered swingers. They are in a relationship with each other but they don't mind collecting up loose ends as it were. :D

I would hate to be in a relationship like that because I'd be so anxious about the partner leaving for greener pastures that I wouldn't be having any fun. I'd probably be constantly comparing myself to the others. Besides, depending on age, women have the added issue of possibly getting pregnant although I suppose prophylactics will take of that. Then there's got to be trust that condoms are used consistently in case of STD's.
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jaywhat
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Re: having a multiple partners

#7 Postby jaywhat » September 30th, 2010, 6:32 am

As I said, the definiition is unclear. Is a 'partner' someone who shares your life with all its complications - home, income, outgoings care of offspring etc. ?.
Some of the relationships mentioned here sound more like 'a bit on the side' - they can come and go. That is not what 'partner' means IMO.
Its not even what 'business partner' means!

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Ninny
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Re: having a multiple partners

#8 Postby Ninny » September 30th, 2010, 8:03 am

Surely one partner is more than enough for anyone to put up with!

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coffee
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Re: having a multiple partners

#9 Postby coffee » September 30th, 2010, 10:04 am

you don't specify the composition of sexes

A man having more than one woman.
A woman having more than one man.

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coffee
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Re: having a multiple partners

#10 Postby coffee » September 30th, 2010, 10:07 am

Could be marriage

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: having a multiple partners

#11 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » September 30th, 2010, 11:18 am

If you're talking about polyamory, which Wikipedia defines as "the practice, desire, or acceptance of cultivating more than one intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and felt consent of everyone involved", then I think it's something that, in theory at least, is perfectly compatible with a humanist outlook. It doesn't appeal to me, but then I'm comfortable with monogamy — or perhaps that should be monoamory. Not everyone is. Much better, I think, for people who are unable or unwilling to sustain monoamorous relationships to join up with others who feel the same way than to try to, or pretend to, have a monoamorous relationship with someone who wants just that, and end up deceiving and hurting them.

It must get complicated, though, when there are children involved. But then so do more conventional relationships when faced with things like adultery.

Emma

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: having a multiple partners

#12 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » September 30th, 2010, 11:20 am

coffee wrote:
you don't specify the composition of sexes

A man having more than one woman.
A woman having more than one man.
Why so heterosexual?

Emma

Marian
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Re: having a multiple partners

#13 Postby Marian » September 30th, 2010, 1:44 pm

Ninny wrote:Surely one partner is more than enough for anyone to put up with!

:laughter: You said it, sister!! Way more than enough!
Transformative fire...

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Re: having a multiple partners

#14 Postby Nick » September 30th, 2010, 3:22 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote: If you're talking about polyamory, which Wikipedia defines as "the practice, desire, or acceptance of cultivating more than one intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and felt consent of everyone involved", then I think it's something that, in theory at least, is perfectly compatible with a humanist outlook.


Hmmm... The way I see it, morals are greatly determined by our human evolution, which has tended to emphasise a number of characteristics. Generalising terribly, though a male may seek to spread his genes widely, a female is likely to resist unless she is confident that she will not be left to bring up the brood alone . In both sexes there are impulses to stay with the same partner (though life expectancy has increased a great deal). In some circumstances a male will be strong enough to have more than one partner. The females may not like it, but their 'best chance' may lie with putting up with the situation. Likewise, males are generally unwilling to let their bloodline be messed up by other males interfering in his family. Unsurprisingly, gay relationships often follow a different path, including multiple partners.

Given these incredibly strong evolutionary characteristics, it is no surprise to find that when these biologocal 'rules' are broken, it often leads to unhappy results. I think, as a humanist, that there is no such thing as absolute morality, but also, as a humanist, accept that we, as humans, are predisposed to follow certain broad rules. With this in mind, I think it is unlikely that we will achieve the best results by assuming that our genes and inherited emotions have nothing to do with relationships.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: having a multiple partners

#15 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » September 30th, 2010, 5:57 pm

Nick wrote:The way I see it, morals are greatly determined by our human evolution, which has tended to emphasise a number of characteristics. Generalising terribly, though a male may seek to spread his genes widely, a female is likely to resist unless she is confident that she will not be left to bring up the brood alone .
Yes, terrible generalisation, Nick! And it's terribly misleading, too. Even a promiscuous heterosexual male doesn't "seek to spread his genes widely". He seeks to have sex with a large number of women. It may be that his promiscuity is advantageous from the perspective of his genes, but that's a different matter. That's not why he, as an individual, does it. There are also evolutionary arguments suggesting that promiscuity in females is genetically advantageous because it allows them to have offspring with superior genetic potential. But even if that were true, you couldn't say that it's why some women are promiscuous or adulterous. They're not seeking superior genetic potential. It's the old problem of confusing distal and proximal explanations, and I just have to leap on it whenever I see it.

In any case, I don't think it's enough to talk only about evolutionary biology when looking at human sexual behaviour. Social and cultural pressures are so significant. And I suspect they're far more significant.
Nick wrote:In both sexes there are impulses to stay with the same partner (though life expectancy has increased a great deal).
Yes. But those impulses are not only biological in origin. Romantic love is a strange, complicated thing, and it may well be that it is much more of a learned emotion than an inherited one, more of a cultural invention rather than a natural phenomenon. And love aside, there are strong social and cultural pressures involved in choosing a romantic/sexual/domestic partner. In any case, those impulses vary a lot. For some, the impulses to be strictly monogamous are the most significant. For many (most?) others, there are stronger impulses to change partners periodically over the course of a lifetime. And for many others, there are strong impulses to have occasional brief flings with many sexual partners while remaining with one domestic sexual partner. For still others, perhaps only a few at the moment, there may be strong impulses to have more than one domestic sexual partner at the same time.
Nick wrote:In some circumstances a male will be strong enough to have more than one partner.
Strong enough? Hmmm. That's one way of looking at it ...
Nick wrote:The females may not like it, but their 'best chance' may lie with putting up with the situation.
Best chance of what?
Nick wrote:Likewise, males are generally unwilling to let their bloodline be messed up by other males interfering in his family.
Or, to put it another way, they are likely to be jealous. But if they're not jealous, or can learn not to be jealous, and if they are inclined themselves to have multiple partners, then perhaps a polyamorous set-up could work well for them.
Nick wrote:Unsurprisingly, gay relationships often follow a different path, including multiple partners.
Do you have any data on this?
Nick wrote:Given these incredibly strong evolutionary characteristics ...
What incredibly strong evolutionary characteristics?
Nick wrote:... it is no surprise to find that when these biologocal 'rules' are broken, it often leads to unhappy results.
And when the incredibly strong cultural rules are abided by, it can also often lead to unhappy results. No surprise there, either. Not that I think those biological "rules" exist.
Nick wrote:I think, as a humanist, that there is no such thing as absolute morality, but also, as a humanist, accept that we, as humans, are predisposed to follow certain broad rules. With this in mind, I think it is unlikely that we will achieve the best results by assuming that our genes and inherited emotions have nothing to do with relationships.
Just as it's unlikely that we will achieve the best results by assuming that our genes and "inherited emotions" (not sure what they are) have everything to do with relationships.

Emma

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Re: having a multiple partners

#16 Postby Nick » September 30th, 2010, 8:24 pm

Ya can't get away with a sloppy post on TH :laughter:

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Nick wrote:The way I see it, morals are greatly determined by our human evolution, which has tended to emphasise a number of characteristics. Generalising terribly, though a male may seek to spread his genes widely, a female is likely to resist unless she is confident that she will not be left to bring up the brood alone .
Yes, terrible generalisation, Nick! And it's terribly misleading, too. Even a promiscuous heterosexual male doesn't "seek to spread his genes widely". He seeks to have sex with a large number of women. It may be that his promiscuity is advantageous from the perspective of his genes, but that's a different matter.

OK, to put my point another way. A promiscuous heterosexual male wants to poke as many women as possible without once thinking of his genes. But that urge is itself the product of evolution. How is it a different matter?

That's not why he, as an individual, does it.
He may do it for pleasure, or for feelings of dominance or some other reason, but his feelings are themselves the product of evolution, surely?

There are also evolutionary arguments suggesting that promiscuity in females is genetically advantageous because it allows them to have offspring with superior genetic potential.
Hmmm... I don't agree. From the evolutionary point of view, raising children to adulthood is more important than superior genetic advantage in kids who die in infancy. However, there may be evolutionary advantage in having children by different fathers, not because subsequent fathers may be superior, but because the greater the variety of genes, the more likely at least one of her brood is biologically likely to survive. However, I think that is of much lower importance than ensuring that any of her offspring survive at all, which would be enhanced by sticking with one partner.

But even if that were true, you couldn't say that it's why some women are promiscuous or adulterous. They're not seeking superior genetic potential. It's the old problem of confusing distal and proximal explanations, and I just have to leap on it whenever I see it.
It's not an old problem, it's a very new problem. So new, I've got to go away and look it up! I'll get back to you later on this. :)

In any case, I don't think it's enough to talk only about evolutionary biology when looking at human sexual behaviour. Social and cultural pressures are so significant. And I suspect they're far more significant.

Hmmm... Certainly there is a lot of social and cultural pressure involved when choosing partners, but I don't think they over-ride evolutionary pressures (though the distinction can be fuzzy round the edges).

For ease of posting, I'll split my reply here. More anon.

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Re: having a multiple partners

#17 Postby coffee » October 1st, 2010, 10:21 am

Why so heterosexual?


I don't know Emma.

I guess it could also include bi or gay people.

Are you feeling a bit left out? :laughter:

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Re: having a multiple partners

#18 Postby jaywhat » October 1st, 2010, 2:16 pm

coffee wrote:
Why so heterosexual?


I don't know Emma.

I guess it could also include bi or gay people.

Are you feeling a bit left out? :laughter:



Not could include, should include!

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Nick
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Re: having a multiple partners

#19 Postby Nick » October 1st, 2010, 4:07 pm

Second spasm....

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Nick wrote:In both sexes there are impulses to stay with the same partner (though life expectancy has increased a great deal).
Yes. But those impulses are not only biological in origin. Romantic love is a strange, complicated thing, and it may well be that it is much more of a learned emotion than an inherited one, more of a cultural invention rather than a natural phenomenon.

I’m afraid I’m going to disagree with that, principally based on my reading of Desmond Morris’s books. Certainly, because humans have evolved into complex beings with complex brains, there are many more permutations than for lower order animals, but the length of pair bonding has evolved to allow the brood to reach maturity. If humans played no part in rearing their young our sexual morals and pairing behaviour would be very different, I’d imagine. As for romantic love, apparently, when in love, our eyesight is impaired slightly, to increase the chances of finding ones partner beautiful :D .

And love aside, there are strong social and cultural pressures involved in choosing a romantic/sexual/domestic partner. In any case, those impulses vary a lot.

Certainly there will be cultural influences and reinforcements, but I don’t see any not based on nature.

For some, the impulses to be strictly monogamous are the most significant. For many (most?) others, there are stronger impulses to change partners periodically over the course of a lifetime.

I think one could describe that as 'serial monogamy'. And bear in mind that humans have evolved to an extreme extent, so that one might expect to find frayed edges and non-standard responses amongst such a highly tuned animal. Evolution has yet to catch up with the fact that humans generally live long beyond their reproductive years. A desire to find a mate and seek pleasure may have a second outing when the first round is completed, or when the unusual environment which we have created sparks off such a reaction that evolution did not expect. For example, the opportunity to play the field outside one’s immediate family circle.

And for many others, there are strong impulses to have occasional brief flings with many sexual partners while remaining with one domestic sexual partner.

This, I think, can be seen as 2 urges in conflict. The desire to seek excitement with another is not entirely switched off by having a mate. And the human is always looking for variety and stimulation, which has been good for our evolution.

For still others, perhaps only a few at the moment, there may be strong impulses to have more than one domestic sexual partner at the same time.

Hmmm... I think we are a long way from that. Free love doesn’t seem to be able to survive for very long.

Nick wrote:In some circumstances a male will be strong enough to have more than one partner.
Strong enough? Hmmm. That's one way of looking at it ...
I didn’t mean just physical strength. Wealth, leadership skills or charisma work too.

Nick wrote:The females may not like it, but their 'best chance' may lie with putting up with the situation.
Best chance of what?

Best chance of getting through life. Only in the last half century or so have (non-exceptional) women been able to make their way alone in a man’s world.

Nick wrote:Likewise, males are generally unwilling to let their bloodline be messed up by other males interfering in his family.
Or, to put it another way, they are likely to be jealous.

Exactly.

But if they're not jealous, or can learn not to be jealous, and if they are inclined themselves to have multiple partners, then perhaps a polyamorous set-up could work well for them.

Do you really think that is likely? How inclined would you or anyone you know be to “learn not to be jealous”? Hmmm..I don’t se it happening in general terms.

Nick wrote:Unsurprisingly, gay relationships often follow a different path, including multiple partners.
Do you have any data on this?

I have anecdotal evidence from gay friends, and I’d suggest the course of the AIDS epidemic would be evidence of this.

By the by, one gay friend told me “All the girls in the office, they all come and discuss their problems with me! Here I am, the biggest poof in the office and they expect me to understand! Mind you, I’ve probably had more men than they have...”


Nick wrote:Given these incredibly strong evolutionary characteristics ...
What incredibly strong evolutionary characteristics?

The characteristic which have led to the predominance of the family as a unit in society.

Nick wrote:... it is no surprise to find that when these biological 'rules' are broken, it often leads to unhappy results.
And when the incredibly strong cultural rules are abided by, it can also often lead to unhappy results. No surprise there, either.

Certainly. We have the chance to advance, not least by allowing individual needs to escape where necessary from stifling social norms. (This would include acceptance of non-standard sexuality too.)

Not that I think those biological "rules" exist.

What none of them? (Though “rules” is probably not the best word to use.)

Nick wrote:I think, as a humanist, that there is no such thing as absolute morality, but also, as a humanist, accept that we, as humans, are predisposed to follow certain broad rules. With this in mind, I think it is unlikely that we will achieve the best results by assuming that our genes and inherited emotions have nothing to do with relationships.
Just as it's unlikely that we will achieve the best results by assuming that our genes and "inherited emotions" (not sure what they are) have everything to do with relationships.

Maybe not everything, but a large amount of something.

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Re: having a multiple partners

#20 Postby Marian » October 1st, 2010, 6:56 pm

Nick wrote:
For still others, perhaps only a few at the moment, there may be strong impulses to have more than one domestic sexual partner at the same time.

Hmmm... I think we are a long way from that. Free love doesn’t seem to be able to survive for very long.

There's a difference between free love and having more than one domestic sexual partner. Do you have a definition of free love in relation to what Emma's saying?

Nick wrote:The females may not like it, but their 'best chance' may lie with putting up with the situation.
Best chance of what?
Best chance of getting through life. Only in the last half century or so have (non-exceptional) women been able to make their way alone in a man’s world.

I found it fascinating that the grammatical tense in your first statement is the opposite of that in the last. It makes me wonder whether you might be living (in your mind) prior to the last half century? :wink: Care to expound on why women should 'put up with it' (sounds like the same reasoning that held for domestic violence in the past) as their best chance now, when women are very much likely to make it on their own, so to speak?



Nick wrote:Unsurprisingly, gay relationships often follow a different path, including multiple partners...
I have anecdotal evidence from gay friends, and I’d suggest the course of the AIDS epidemic would be evidence of this.

There are many different types of relationships that exist. There are gay couples who enjoy being monogamous as well as heterosexual couples but my biggest beef here is with the statement about AIDS. I'm really having a hard time not getting my feathers in a knot about this.
If gay relationships follow a different path and this is related to the AIDS virus/epidemic (an epidemic more often situated in sub-Saharan Africa), how is it that in that region, 90% of new HIV infections are among children? Or that both women and men in that region are living with HIV in an almost equal number to each other? Oh, I so want to make a comment just now about men and their sexual habits but that wouldn't be accurate or fair. I'll resist but oh, it hurts me so.... :D


Nick wrote:Given these incredibly strong evolutionary characteristics ...
What incredibly strong evolutionary characteristics?

The characteristic which have led to the predominance of the family as a unit in society.
Are you sure you aren't a supporter of Proposition 8? Could you please be more specific about what these strong evolutionary characteristics are?

Nick wrote:... it is no surprise to find that when these biological 'rules' are broken, it often leads to unhappy results.

Which unhappy results are these, specifically? Are you referring to AIDS or children being raised by gay/lesbian couples or genetic mishaps or something else? Do tell.


Sorry, Emma, I couldn't resist stepping in here although you are quite capable of handling all of this. :)
Transformative fire...


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